Putney blasted Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado and Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones for approving a plan that will waste some $428,000 in taxpayer money fixing up four small businesses along NW 7th Avenue.
Putney didn't pull any punches as he spoke frankly about the problems that have plagued Liberty City for decades. It's the kind of talk that's long overdue and the kind that residents of Liberty City don't often hear...at least not from their elected leaders.
In his 35 years as a journalist in Miami, Putney has seen hundreds of millions in taxpayer dollars - the equivalent of the Gross National Product of several Central American banana republics - funneled into Liberty City on do-good, feel-good projects that have yielded little or no benefit to the area's residents.
After the McDuffie riots in 1980, hundreds of millions of dollars poured into Liberty City for promised "improvements." Besides widening 62nd Street, there's not a lot to show for that money. Each layer of government took its cut and so did some unscrupulous community organizers and politicians, black and white.Putney expanded upon his Sunday commentary with a column in Wednesday's Miami Herald:
There are restrictions on how CDBG money can be spent, but if it were up to me I’d use that $428,000 to train Liberty City residents in job skills so they could go to work at the nearby UM Life Science and Technology Park.Reaction was swift. Liberty City residents called a press conference Friday to denounce Putney.
Or for training to get a job at Resorts World Miami.
Or spend it on after-school tutoring and other programs for Liberty City school kids.
Leroy Jones of something called the "Neighbors and Neighbors Association" labeled Putney's commentary, "bigotry toward the residents of Liberty City."
Jones told Channel 10 reporter Jeff Weinsier the $428,000 would "improve the morale" of residents and make Liberty City an attractive place "so that people who don't live in Liberty City might want to come here with their money."
Ironically, as Weinsier's piece aired tonight on Channel 10's 6pm newscast, Miami police were investigating the second drive-by shooting in as many days in Liberty City.
Putney ended his Herald column with this sentence: "To spend this money renovating the facades of four Northwest Seventh Avenue businesses is a cosmetic fix for a systemic problem. It’s worse than putting lipstick on a pig. It’s putting a useless Band-aid on a festering wound."
Putney's right. It's going to take more than paint, new signs and awnings to attract people with money to Liberty City.
And I'll add - are you listening Leroy Jones? - that Liberty City will become a whole lot more attractive to outsiders when the shooting stops. Just sayin'.